I’ve been retired and living in Tacoma for nearly a year now. The most challenging aspect of starting this new chapter is making new friends. During my many years of teaching on military bases in Germany, I was thrown together with my fellow Americans, (why do I hear Richard Nixon’s voice saying that phrase?) and we formed a tight-knit little community—especially the teachers and their families, who didn’t quite fit in with the military folks. Here in Tacoma, I’ve tried out various activities: the gym, some volunteer teaching, a dance class, a writers’ critique group, and even a wine-lovers’ club. I’ve met some fascinating people, and we’re blessed with friendly neighbors, but making new friends takes time, especially in a place where most people are not newcomers and already have a full dance card.
That’s one thing I love about writing fiction: I’d like a circle of fascinating friends to hang out with, and I can easily create such people on paper. The fictional town where my current novel takes place is populated by quirky, artistic, bohemian types—just the sort of neighbors I’d like to have here. Of course, the character with whom I’m spending the most time is Lola, my protagonist. She’s fifty-three, a divorced mother of two who’s worked as a high school teacher of French and English while supporting her children. Now that both children are launched, a small inheritance and a bit of good luck have allowed her to retire early and move from Fresno to a coastal town in Northern California. Other than her former career and the color of her hair, Lola and I don’t have much in common, but she has many characteristics that I aspire to. (To which I aspire, if you insist.)
- Lola is flamboyant—not because she’s looking for a reaction from others, but because she’s an interesting person and must express herself. Wearing flashy, bohemian outfits brings her joy, as does belly dancing.
- Lola is fascinated by people, all sorts of people.
- She’s open to, even eager for, new experiences. She’s game, a good sport, will try anything once.
- She has a good eye for opportunities. For example, she’s always wanted to live in a cute little cottage near the ocean, and when the opportunity presents itself, she pounces on it.
- Lola is artistic. She needs a daily infusion of beauty, and creates beauty in her home, wardrobe, and adornment. She also gets out into nature, goes to exhibits and performances, listens to interesting music while doing her chores…
- She refuses to be bored. There’s always something interesting to do, and she’s the first one to find it. (That’s you, Diana.)
- She’s not a show-off, nor is she competitive. Lola loves applause, but she doesn’t need to hog the spotlight, and she’s happy to applaud others. After all, people are fascinating.
- Lola is generous, but seldom self-sacrificing. She knows that no one will ever care as much about her happiness as she does, and that’s as it should be. She cheerfully takes responsibility for creating the life she wants, and she’s comfortable saying “no” when others’ demands become too intrusive.
- She sprinkles her day with little treats. She stops to smell the roses, listen to the birdsong, drink lemonade on the porch.
- She’s a good hostess. She enjoys creating occasions and sharing them.
- Finally, Lola is completely comfortable with her age. She had a grand time being twenty, thirty, forty, and she plants to have a grand time in her fifties, sixties, so on, as far as life takes her.
I’ve enjoyed spending time with Lola. Here’s to following her example, and to meeting some real-life Lolas.